Indian Railways’ telecom wing RailTel in partnership with Google has finally launched the first high-speed WiFi for public use at Mumbai’s CST railway station.
The project, which included providing free high-speed public WiFi at 400 railway stations across the country, was announced last September during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Google headquarters in Mountain View. Indian Railways at the same time had also announced that it had laid out more than 45,000 km of optic fiber network across the country and would be partnering with Google to set up a high-speed Wi-Fi network at 400 stations.
Google has also reiterated its commitment to cover 100 of the busiest stations by end of 2016 making the project the largest public project in the world. In December, Google’s India-born CEO Sundar Pichai accompanied by nine international vice-presidents on a visit to the country had explained in detail the deployment of the scheme, its speeds, coverage area and how it would work for all passengers.
“We are looking at finishing 100 stations by the end of this year with incremental progress every quarter,” Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, had said during his keynote address.
Google, which says that Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur and Ranchi railway stations will follow shortly, has said that the Wi-Fi will be available to any user who has a working mobile connection on a smartphone.
Users will be able to easily stream a high definition video while they’re waiting, research their destination, or save some videos for offline viewing, download a book or a new game for the journey, the Mountain View-headquartered company said in a statement.
“Bringing affordable Internet access to millions of people is an important part of making the internet both easily accessible and useful for more than 300 million Indians who are already online, and the nearly one billion more who are not. By end of this year over 10 million people will be able to enjoy this experience at 100 stations spread across the country,” Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google South East Asia and India said.
“We’ve focussed on delivering a network that is at par with the high speed public Wi-Fi network that is available to users in developed countries. The network is built for wide coverage and high capacity usage unlike a typical Wi-Fi hotspot which offers connectivity in limited area and poor experience,” Anandan said adding that this network will extend to cover both long distance train station and the local train station in Mumbai Central.
How to access Railwire Wifi service:
Free at start
Google has sought to clarify that its WiFi will be free at start but has given no clarification on railway ministry’s statement that the WiFi will be charged somewhere between Rs.25 to Rs. 30 after an hour of usage.
“The Wi-Fi will be entirely free to start, so stream and download to your heart’s content. However, while there will always be some level of free Wi-Fi available, the long-term goal for this service will be to make it self-sustainable, to allow for expansion to more stations and places, with RailTel and other partners, in the future,” a Google spokesperson said.
Still not clear on how much of the WiFi is free
Although it was expected that details about the WiFi project will be clear as the project is launched, there are still some details missing. Google or RailTel clarified nothing about payment walls after free usage for a designated period of time.
Google had earlier said that the WiFi service will be free and consequently there would be a reduction of speed over continuous usage so as to give equal opportunities to all people accessing the WiFi at the station.
“The first hour will be free and then we will limit the speeds so as to give fair access to other passengers,” Gulzar Azad, head of Access Programs in India, had said, indicating that users would not be charged for internet usage.
Later, railway ministry sources revealed that only the first hour of internet surfing will be free and after that every user will be charged somewhere between Rs. 25 to Rs. 30 per hour.